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Interviews

Interview with The Hon. Markus Meckel (First Democratically Elected Foreign Minister of the German Democratic Republic (DDR))

Markus-Meckel

Q1. Where do you see difficulties in applying Human Rights, given the fact that globally speaking, different cultures have different ideas what Human Rights should be?

I think there is a national definition of what human rights are, but as I understand it some countries are searching for excuses. They hide behind religion, culture, and tradition, but that’s a very cheap excuse. Of course it’s clear that not everybody has to look like Norway, but sometimes it’s a cheap excuse to say that human rights is a western invention, and it does not fit in this or that region. The same has been said about Catholic countries. Remember when people said Catholics cannot be democrats at a time when most South American countries used to be dictatorships, and today no one would say that. It’s also absurd to say that Islam and democracy are a contradiction; I don’t see a reason for that.

Q2. How does cultural diplomacy fit in with Human Rights? How can it help to promote them?

It’s extremely important, and one of the most important things is knowledge of other countries. Exchange programs are so important, and I wish that every young man and woman has an opportunity to spend at least part of their life in another country, and experience other cultures, customs, and languages, and come back with these experiences because this is what our planet needs right now.

Q3. What is your position on the tendency for developed countries to politely ignore the human rights records of countries which can provide economic interests?

I am not naive, it’s difficult to make foreign policy with the Amnesty reports under your arm, because we would have to stop relations with ourselves because unfortunately we are still violating human rights even in our own countries and the European Union. Look at the record of freedom of media in Italy, as you can see, you don’t have to go far away. Let’s also be clear on the long term rule of law, without this rule of law, there will be no economic relations or growth. Business communities need the rule of law, so human rights in itself is also protection for economies, and also protection for growth within our societies. Therefore it is important to have dialogue with military regimes, but also tell them it is in their own best interest, if they want to have stable societies to practice the rule of law and human rights.

Interview conducted by James Hood

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
www.ccds-berlin.de
www.culturaldiplomacy.org

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